One year ago, as 2016 began, I was a very unhappy Yank. After Christmas cancer surgery, I was starting treatment with a pretty grim prognosis, and I thought I’d permanently blown my dream of a pilgrimage to the Blue Mecca of Goodison Park, which all good Evertonians must make at least once in their lives. (TW contributor Pat Finegan calls it the Everton Hajj.) In 30 years as a Blue, I’d always intended to get there someday, but it looked like someday was already gone.
Well, I have another chance. As 2017 begins, I’m still on the upside of the grass, as a friend put it. In fact, I’m feeling so good I expect to be back on the pitch for my men’s open league team this spring (not bad to be 60 and still cutting out crosses from teenagers!).
So no more waiting. Goodison here I come. I have air tickets from Oregon to Heathrow for April 6, with the intent of seeing the home games against Leicester and Burnley on April 8 and 15. Of course, by then these will be two crucial games in our stunning comeback battle for Champions League places.
I’d love to meet up with some of the good folk of TW, with whom I’ve celebrated and commiserated and debated through these past ten years, for the pregame ritual and the game itself. (Somebody will have to teach me the songs – I know one stanza of It’s A Grand Old Team but haven’t picked up the others from TV.)
I’d welcome suggestions on good areas to stay in town, and also on things to do around the country during the intervening week, especially scenic train trips.
It’s my only chance, so this will be the trip of a lifetime.... even if by chance we're not yet challenging for the top 4. COYB!
Reader Comments (108)
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1 Posted 23/01/2017 at 02:29:34
I can advise you to get ready for the experience of a lifetime at Goodison, though. American sports don't come close to the atmosphere on a good day at the old lady, as evidenced by the aforementioned fact that I've flown to England for the weekend on several occasions.
2 Posted 23/01/2017 at 02:49:28
Great news. May I assume that you are in remission, I hope? I hope the trip is an awesome experience for you. If you do meet up with any of the TW regulars, please take a picture and post it somehow so I can see if they match what I think they look like in my head!
If you are flying out of Portland and are getting there a day or two early, hit The Toffee Club, a true Evertonian bar in Portland with genuine English food (why?) and beer as well as some fine local brews. My sister-in-law and her husband go there and neither is a "soccer" fan although they support the Timbers and Thorns.
3 Posted 23/01/2017 at 04:02:03
Jim, thanks for the tip... happens I'm flying to Portland tomorrow for treatment and I found the Toffee Club online... only a couple miles from where I'll be. I'll check it out!
4 Posted 23/01/2017 at 07:48:35
I was thinking about your wish to travel on some train journeys. Well' you'll be able to get a train along the North Wales Coast from Liverpool and via Chester, which is a brilliant Town, complete with Roman Walls, Medieval rows of shops and a good place for a day out, if the weather's okay (Big if that one!)
Once along the Coast, you can visit Conway (great big Castle and fabulous views of Snowdonia!)
Then there's the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales as well.
As you fancy train journeys, then you might be interested in the Steam Train trips, including a beaut down the Vale of Llangollen, that enthusiasts, have got the iconic steam engines back out of retirement.
I don't know if you can get the information off the internet (probably) but if you can't, I'll get some leaflets, when they come out, of the programme of trips, just let me know.
As for meeting some of the Blues, I think you'd better make your stay a fortnight!! Have a great time, mate.
Just leave yourself time to enjoy the matches as well though!
5 Posted 23/01/2017 at 07:55:22
Mike I'm pretty sure that the Grand National, is on that weekend, so bring a suit mate, for Liverpool's finest weekend in its Callander!
6 Posted 23/01/2017 at 08:58:39
If it is Grand National weekend as Tony says then you need to get your accommodation sorted asap because all city hotels get booked out.
7 Posted 23/01/2017 at 09:37:02
8 Posted 23/01/2017 at 09:37:22
Best of luck in the future Mike.
9 Posted 23/01/2017 at 09:43:15
I made the trip across the river every day when I was A lad - the thought of it still stirs me up.
10 Posted 23/01/2017 at 10:05:58
As Jim says, Conwy is worth a visit and the trip down the Conwy Valley to Betws Y Coed is lovely. Plenty of places to stay and good walking/hiking country. Chester, and of course, Liverpool have loads to offer.
I'm sure you'll have a great time. Maybe Lyndon could organise a meeting/interview so we can get to know what you look like and your Stateside Blue story?
11 Posted 23/01/2017 at 10:10:59
Mike mentions meeting a few ToffeeWebbers when he is over which is a bit of a coincidence for me as only last week I was thinking it would be good to have an annual get together (complete with name tags!) a bit like a school reunion so that we could put faces to the names we debate with throughout the year.
If such an event were a success it could be moved to bigger venues for the future but I thought Philharmonic pub might be a good place for starters. I wonder what Lyndon/Michael think? Or has this been tried before and I've missed it?
12 Posted 23/01/2017 at 11:07:16
13 Posted 23/01/2017 at 12:49:08
14 Posted 23/01/2017 at 13:26:05
Synopsis - Basically loads of worrying hozzy shots, head-shaking doctors, then the good news, then a final shot of you at Goodison, jumping out of your seat as Tom Davies scores a last minute winner to secure us 4th spot.
We then freeze frame on you dancing about with fellow blues while a graphic appears..
"Mike Gaynes is now fully recovered and living happily in Cacksville Oregon"
(sorry not sure exactly where you live)
Added to this graphic comes another..
"Liverpool FC were relegated to the 2nd division after an investigation showing 50 years of bribes" (well..y'know, nothing subtle about Hollywood)
Seriously, congratulations on your good news, enjoy your trip.
15 Posted 23/01/2017 at 17:49:51
16 Posted 23/01/2017 at 17:59:41
I actually mentioned to Lyndon, I think it was, about having a ToffeeWeb meet up somewhere, sometime. Be interesting to put names to faces!
Hope your trip is a huge success Mike!
17 Posted 23/01/2017 at 18:40:46
I'm very envious of your trip. I haven't been back home for about 6 years. I'm glad you're getting to see the real England, not the tourist trappings of London. I get so many people tell me they are going to the UK for a vacation, and London is the only place they go to.
18 Posted 23/01/2017 at 18:51:33
Appreciate all the guidance. The York and Wales train adventures sound great, and I will be checking them out for sure. Jim and Ray, details and recommendations much appreciated. Other folks have told me that the London-Edinburgh overnight and the Glasgow-Mallaig train are trips not to be missed. Any TW Scots who can comment?
Thanks Tony/Tony/Martin for the head's up on the Grand National... couldn't figure out why so many of the hotels were already booked up. Not much of a horse guy myself but just my luck to cross up with a major four-legged event. I will book a room right away if I can just figure out where the train station is.
Eugene, great scenario, only mine would have ManU busted instead of Liverpool. Not having grown up on Merseyside, my hatred goes toward different Reds.
Ron #15, don't worry, no jinx announcements here. I'm keeping my head down.
Brian #16, I'm not in the Big C survivor club yet, but hope to join you. Congratulations on your winning fight.
19 Posted 23/01/2017 at 18:53:24
20 Posted 23/01/2017 at 18:55:06
21 Posted 23/01/2017 at 19:11:11
L3 0AP, and imagine.
And make sure you avoid L4 0TH!
Has anybody mentioned Prince Rupert's Tower?
22 Posted 23/01/2017 at 19:20:24
23 Posted 23/01/2017 at 19:20:25
Also don't worry about how far the train station is because you will be pleasantly surprised at how compact Liverpool actually is, (it's made for the visitor?) as long as you can book somewhere, with-in the city centre.
Post the hotels you are looking at, and I'm sure we will be able to tell you which is the best location. Maybe try a night in THE TITANIC, it might be a bit expensive, but it's right by where we are all hoping to go!
24 Posted 23/01/2017 at 19:23:09
25 Posted 23/01/2017 at 20:37:45
Ill sort some unforgettable photo opportunities for you . My email is email@example.com. Be safe, Mike, and we will see you soon.
26 Posted 23/01/2017 at 21:56:29
Not a bad first match to remember us by!
27 Posted 24/01/2017 at 00:19:55
Quite an undertaking.
I presume that means you'll have to enter a permanent state of Ihram during your trip, resulting in jewellery, haircuts, shagging and arguing being well and truly off the menu. Alas, as such, you'll definitely want to be steering clear of a certain type of Scouse bird. Mainly, those who look like they've slapped a big stick of licorice above their eye lids as some sort of bizarre brow substitute and furthermore seem to have forgotten Bert was actually the yellow one; Ernie was the bright orange bastard (and, whatever you do Mr Gaynes, do not jokingly ask one of those girls if they want any 'sherbert').
You will of course have to don simple white garments for the duration. That terrible 1995 'tractor tracks' away top, teamed with white trackie bottoms tucked into white socks, topped off with your biggest, brightest, American trainees (or should that be 'sneakies'?) should ensure you don't stand out too much amongst any scalls.
Seen as though you'll probably circle Goodison seven times looking for the correct turnstile to enter through, then Tawaf should take care of itself. As long as you remember to go counter clockwise and keep horse shit avoidance at the forefront of your mind.
Sa'y, or the whole 'running seven times between hills and supping from the Zamzam spring' (to reenact Hagar running for water) might seem a trickier obligation to fit in, but luckily there's a 'William Hill's' right by the ground and a couple of 'watering holes' we can substitute for the real thing. Legging it between the bookies and the boozer to fulfil this requirement might be considered morally dubious I suppose, but we can only work with what we've got and besides: 'when in Walton' (as...err..absolutely nobody would say).
Also, during the Hajj, it is imperative to throw 49 rocks at stone 'Satan's' (as a way of recalling the resistance to Satan's attempts to prevent Abraham from sacrificing Ishmael). Satan's? Hmm, if only we had some handy close by
Sooo, that's 48 hefty fuckers flung forcibly at all 4 sides of Anfield and a spare for you to keep hold of in case you happen to make it to Mathew St and get within 'CHUCK'ing distance of that new Cilla statue.
Then, apparently, on the eighth day of Hajj, you have to move to a barren desert and doss down in a flimsy tent. Kind of the 'Destination Kirkby' part of the whole pilgrimage deal I guess?
Anyway, I wish you all the best for your own particular 'Hajj' and sincerely hope you have an absolutely fantastic time, Mike.
Here's to 'actually being there' living up to the build up, the boys showing the same fight and determination on the pitch that you have in your own personal battle, six points, and a whole host of enduring Evertonian memories for you to take home and look back on for a long time to come.
28 Posted 24/01/2017 at 02:23:57
Brent #21, nice mystery post, I shall investigate.
Brian #22, I hear and I obey. First round on me.
Tony #23, great advice, will do.
Kev #25, much appreciated, will contact you soon.
John Daley, I'll need a day, a Koran and a dictionary to sort through your treatise, but I shall grasp the deepest meanings, I swear it.
And now an announcement. I didn't answer Jim's #2 question because I couldn't. But as of two hours ago, I can. Officially.
YES. I am in remission. Greatest fucking word in the English language.
Very special day.
And now I get to go to Goodison clean.
29 Posted 24/01/2017 at 02:40:24
If you take Laurie @ 9's advice, and take a trip over the Mersey, try and visit the church in the North End of Birkenhead (St James I think. on the main Rd) where the great 'Dixie' was both christened and buried - now that IS a pilgrimage. Best of luck for the games, and hope the blues do the business for you.
30 Posted 24/01/2017 at 03:55:37
31 Posted 24/01/2017 at 04:30:19
Now Mike - if you do decide to make the trip to the North End of Birkenhead as Mick # 29 has suggested let me know and I will get my sister Sheila and brother in law Martin (both Evertonians) to pick you up and take you there. They live not far from their. The North End is Birkenheads equivalent of the Bronx😉
Mick # 29 - do you know what 2 things I have in common with Dixie? I went to Laird St school and I was christened in St James church. Honest.
32 Posted 24/01/2017 at 05:49:13
Mick and Laurie, many thanks for the guidance. I think, this being my first time to the UK, I'll want to get out and see the country by train as much as possible, so I doubt I'll be spending much time in town except for the games. But if I do have a day for the Liverpool experience, I will definitely let you know!
33 Posted 24/01/2017 at 06:08:09
In a world full of pessimism and bad news it's always good to hear some good news.
If a few TW'ers wanna meet up in the Philharmonic whilst your over, i'll have a sherbert or two with the crew.
34 Posted 24/01/2017 at 06:49:35
"Legging it between the bookies and the boozer"... cracker.
35 Posted 24/01/2017 at 07:34:59
John Daley, no wonder we never get any luck us blues. I saw this arl one, with a Liverpool scarf on, putting flowers on Cilla's statue, and you are advising bricks I can't wait to hear Pete Price, when he finds out about this!
36 Posted 24/01/2017 at 07:49:37
As the media will tell you Our Cilla is much loved by scousers. The proof is in the whip round they asked the people of Liverpool to fund the statue. £380 it raised.
All the best Mike. Have a great trip.
37 Posted 24/01/2017 at 14:37:42
Great news! I apologize for putting you on the spot earlier with my hopeful assumption. Liverpool losing, Everton winning, and now good news for a fellow TWer, within days of each other. Excellent. Have a great trip and remember to take that picture!
38 Posted 24/01/2017 at 14:52:02
39 Posted 24/01/2017 at 15:23:30
40 Posted 24/01/2017 at 15:26:28
41 Posted 24/01/2017 at 15:58:10
42 Posted 24/01/2017 at 16:15:56
Leicester and Burnley at home you say? We should win both of those games and win them well, shouldn't we?! Have a good one.
43 Posted 24/01/2017 at 19:33:43
44 Posted 24/01/2017 at 19:44:14
Caught a Cubs playoff game last fall, although not in Wrigley. When these moments happen, you gotta grab 'em, right?
45 Posted 24/01/2017 at 19:57:47
But what a fantastic post. Enjoy our City. You are very very welcome.
If you want culture, we have it in abundance If you want to take in another world class sporting event. go to the Grand nNational.
But for a never to be repeated experience. Get to Aintree on Ladies Day.
46 Posted 24/01/2017 at 20:06:04
I wonder if Aintree is similar to the Kentucky Derby with the outfits and the hats. Was there once.
47 Posted 24/01/2017 at 20:21:46
Premier Inn Liverpool City Centre
Beech Mount Hotel
ibis Liverpool Centre Albert Dock
Travelodge at The Strand and also Exchange Street
Any reviews or suggestions on these?
48 Posted 24/01/2017 at 22:26:46
Brian (24) advised avoiding the Shankly Hotel. Hmmm maybe. BUT should you find yourself there and anyone comes the old acid about Bill Shankly put Liverpool on the map man of the people...Shanks red army etc etc then throw back at them his comment in his autobiography ." Since his retirement he has been made far more welcome at Goodison than at Anfield". And that he spent his latter days at Bellefield training with Everton youth players.
The RS love this !
49 Posted 24/01/2017 at 23:11:21
50 Posted 24/01/2017 at 23:15:14
John Daley (#27) "as a way of recalling the resistance to Satan's attempts to prevent Abrahams from sacrificing Ishmael"
Would that be Dave or Tony?
51 Posted 25/01/2017 at 00:13:47
Brilliant! What a sense of humor you gents have. Maybe one or two of you could get close to Koeman at the games and keep peppering him with comments until he is reduced to rolling around in the technical area, holding his sides, forgetting that he is Dutch and not supposed to laugh.
52 Posted 24/01/2017 at 00:19:23
53 Posted 25/01/2017 at 00:44:39
I hope your trip coincides with a couple of 7-0 wins (let's not be greedy), nice weather and more positive news on the Royal Blue Mersey Mecca Mega Stadium - (the one that will forever be part of the city skyline and have us all singing 'Eff Off to Anfield, the city's all ours')
I can't wait to sing that - full throttle at dockside, middle finger raised in a north easterly direction in satisfied contempt.
CL qualification at the expense of a faltering, stuttering rs would also be nice.
I'm a Blue - aged 50 - and the emotional links with The Mighty Blues through good times and bad are what make this club so special.
Have a great time - and good luck.
54 Posted 25/01/2017 at 04:15:37
55 Posted 25/01/2017 at 06:30:11
Gerry, George and Angela's!
Darren (#45) top post.
Tickets for the games sorted for you Mike.
Have a wonderful time mate.
I hadn't realized how dicey your Big C was call it 'Trump' as Dennis Potter called his 'Thatcher'.
You'll be at the first game at the dock.
Keep in touch about trains, and, boats, and planes.
56 Posted 25/01/2017 at 21:32:11
57 Posted 25/01/2017 at 21:52:36
58 Posted 25/01/2017 at 21:59:47
Rearrange the following words to make a well known phrase.
59 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:01:39
Don't know about sacrificing Ishmael, but I bet you those Southampton fans, don't feel to bad about sacrificing Koeman, after just what's happened to our neighbours! Hahaha
60 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:03:10
61 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:10:10
Freezing cold night.
Out-fought and out-thought by a side recently stuffed 3-0 by The Mighty Blues.
Faces like slapped arses.
Knowing you truly are a gobshite among gobshites.
Walking home thinking about EFC's magical dockside state-of-the-art, dog-shite free mega stadium.
I'm starting to like Klopp.
Hope the Saints win the cup now.
62 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:11:22
63 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:14:10
64 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:18:56
I gotta go the Conga lines coming round again!!!!!
65 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:21:35
YNWA - don't you just love the irony?
66 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:23:24
67 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:24:14
You must go to Ladies Day at Aintree. And then go into town straight afterwards. You will see some sights, my friend!
68 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:25:11
69 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:27:18
70 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:29:18
71 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:33:33
72 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:34:08
73 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:38:51
Liverpool to Southport - beer with your truly.
Southport to Wigan - pie and pie and pie and beer with Phil Walling.
Wigan to Scotland via...?
Actually those buying at each stop could join the trip. One hell of a gang and a trip by the end.
74 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:41:56
75 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:43:45
76 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:50:50
77 Posted 25/01/2017 at 22:52:14
78 Posted 25/01/2017 at 00:07:17
79 Posted 26/01/2017 at 00:47:15
Brent and Tony, you guys crack me up. Deffo like the idea of Northern and Scottish Blues taking over the train. Could be a great script for a movie. We could even turn Phil into an optimist. Well, okay, that's a bridge too far.
80 Posted 26/01/2017 at 03:41:40
On our recent visit we stayed at the Orrell Park Hotel. Reasonable price and walking distance to the ground. Small family run hotel, made very welcome, and good banter with red owner. Also stayed at the more central Albert Dock Holiday Inn which was good but a lot more expensive.
81 Posted 26/01/2017 at 07:25:08
82 Posted 26/01/2017 at 19:38:35
83 Posted 26/01/2017 at 20:26:18
If you end up this side of the border, give me a shout. I spend a lot of time working in Glasgow and could take you on the sights (pubs) there if we're there at the same time. Please get in touch if you're taking the train to Inverness.
Whatever you do, you must do Ladies Day on the Friday at Aintree. You won't regret it!
84 Posted 26/01/2017 at 20:53:57
85 Posted 26/01/2017 at 21:21:40
I just saw this. My TW alloted time has decreased significantly since the Fall...
Very happy for you my fellow 'Merican and I hope your trip is simply blissful.
Wear a TRUMP 17 jersey over there just to stir things up a bit. I'm sure that'd go down great...
Have fun Mike - you've earned it.
86 Posted 26/01/2017 at 21:49:24
87 Posted 26/01/2017 at 22:08:06
Before home games, go to the Church by Gwladys Street, St Luke's where there is a free Everton display with many EFC items on sale upstairs.
88 Posted 26/01/2017 at 22:14:11
I will set you and your family up with some tickets for the Beatles tour If you can fit it in that is.
Liner is a great Hotel and my Brother in law is duty manager there as well so I might be able to help there.
89 Posted 26/01/2017 at 22:23:30
Jamie old Yank, great to hear from you... thanks for the good wishes. But no, I will not be wearing a porno shirt. I have a #17 but it's for Terrible Timmy.
Joe Bibb, thanks, I did try The Liner but couldn't get the booking I wanted, so I went for the Premier Liverpool One instead. Good reviews here.
Peter, I will for sure. Maybe you and I can have a Guinness to get me into the spirit of the thing.
90 Posted 26/01/2017 at 22:27:45
91 Posted 26/01/2017 at 22:42:51
I just found this article and I will follow it with great interest. As you, I am almost 60 years old and want to make my own Hajj before it is too late for me. I hope to make my trip in the spring of 2018. Certainly before the Old Lady is replaced with a new home on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey (he types hopefully!).
Good luck on your travels. It seems you will be in good hands with all the advice you are getting from our fellow TW-ers. Please let us all know how your trip goes. I'm counting on a full trip report from you to help with my own planning.
92 Posted 26/01/2017 at 23:26:46
I'm sure if he wants to see acres of badly sprayed false tans, painted eyebrows* and misspelled tattoos, then there are no doubt websites that will cater for that sort of thing. Why not go the whole hog? Is the Grafton still open? Can anywhere else offer a "Grab a Granny" experience? Will Wayne Rooney be able to help?
*The eyebrows. Who was the genius who managed to persuade the "Ladies" that it's a good idea to shave off your eyebrows and then invite a chimpanzee, with seemingly little experience, loose with a tattoo needle to replace natures attempt with some permanent ink? They all have the surprised expression of someone who's sat on a mountain bike without a saddle...
93 Posted 27/01/2017 at 02:34:42
I'll pick myself up off the floor in a little while...
94 Posted 27/01/2017 at 02:39:31
95 Posted 27/01/2017 at 04:01:44
96 Posted 27/01/2017 at 09:24:59
97 Posted 27/01/2017 at 18:57:59
98 Posted 27/01/2017 at 19:07:13
99 Posted 27/01/2017 at 19:28:38
Liverpool is an ace city, mate. I would suggest fitting in Ladies Day at Aintree races on the Friday, train ride and stop in Chester, North Wales train and any castle there, ie, Conwy, then if you want to go further afield, go to Scotland, I suggest Edinburgh.
More than happy to have a pint in the week if you're at a loose end in Liverpool, I can show you some good ale houses and chat all things Blue. You should post on here nearer the time.
100 Posted 27/01/2017 at 19:31:42
Great you are better than you were and that you are looking forward to what I hope is a great trip. I bet the club would love to welcome you, mate.
101 Posted 27/01/2017 at 20:59:32
102 Posted 27/01/2017 at 22:01:27
Have fun Mike! I'll be tuning in to see how the trip pans out for you. You should do a recap thread would love to read about your experience.
103 Posted 28/01/2017 at 05:30:30
Peter #99, thanks for the recommendations on the trains. I'm going to do both. Will miss the Aintree ladies day but hope to meet you in town.
Dermot, Colin and Jamie... you are absolutely spot on. The warmth and support from the TW community has been amazing since I first mentioned my little problem some months back. (It was in a thread about Bradley Lowery, the little Sunderland fan that Everton has so brilliantly supported. Someone asked a question about the costs of his cancer treatment in America, and I answered, and the word was out.)
Knowing I have so many soon-to-be-friends to meet when I get there is a huge thrill. And the fact that I got my unexpected good news the very day after posting this article means the universe is just lining me up with my fellow Blues, as well as my beloved Toffees.
Many, many thanks to all of you. I can't wait.
104 Posted 28/01/2017 at 05:31:41
105 Posted 29/01/2017 at 23:51:22
106 Posted 30/01/2017 at 00:30:32
107 Posted 30/01/2017 at 05:43:08
This is special.
108 Posted 02/02/2017 at 19:10:14
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